Up Close Quilting with Angela Huffman

July 9, 2012

Angela HuffmanThe APQS Up Close Quilting series returns this year with a spotlight on APQS Quilt Artists who are also successful APQS dealers. These individuals are not only talented quilters in their own right, but have also established a successful quilting business and dealerships.

Our first dealer is Kentucky-based Angela Huffman. Angela started quilting in 2000, and quickly established a successful quilting studio and dealership. She has become a staple at APQS tradeshow booths and takes pride in helping customers learn about the ins and outs of longarm quilting. She is also one of the people behind APQS’ Facebook page.

Q: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us, Angela. What sparked your interest in quilting?

A: In 2000, I was a stay at home mom to my 1-year-old triplets. When you have triplets it is important to stick to a schedule. I felt like I was in the movie, “Groundhog Day” where every day is the same as the day before as the day before. My right brain was screaming out for attention and one day I walked into my local quilt shop. Hanging in the shop was this funky quilt with curved piecing. I felt as if the clouds parted and the angels started singing. That was it! The quilt bug bit and from then on when I’d put the babies to bed at 7pm, I’d head to my sewing room and quilt until midnight. Quilting kept my right brain happy when I was living in a left brain world.

Q: What did the first quilt you made look like? Do you remember the colors and patterns?

A: I still have that first quilt hanging on my wall in my studio. It was hand-pieced and hand-quilted in calicos. It is awful and at the time I didn’t even know how the heck to put on binding so I just tucked the raw edge to the back and top stitched! The reason I keep it hanging up in my studio is to remind me how far I’ve come.

Q: Did you begin your quilting journey as a longarm quilter? If not, how did you make the transition?

Angela Huffman quiltA: The first time I saw a longarm machine was at the AQS show in Nashville. I remember thinking, “WHOA! Y’all are taking this way too far!” I find that so hilarious now. I can’t imagine not having my Millennium. I really loved free motion quilting and I’m a Viking girl, but I couldn’t get the shapes and organic lines I craved on my domestic. The throat was too small and I wanted big flowy lines that just weren’t possible. Plus, it physically hurt to quilt on my small sit-down domestic. I knew there had to be a better way and I started lusting for a longarm.

Q: When did you purchase your first APQS longarm quilting machine? Do you remember why you chose it?

A: When I was married I really wanted to buy a longarm but my husband at the time didn’t agree. So…. when we got a divorce, I decided to take my settlement and buy a longarm.

I am a huge fan of Judy Laquidara, Patchwork Times, and I had watched her talents grow on her APQS machine. One of the things that stuck with me was her comments on how responsive the company was to any concern or question she had.

I tried out all the machines at Paducah one year and I loved the way the APQS machines felt. I also liked that the sales people were longarm quilters who could speak from personal experience and not just rattle off specs about the machine. There really was no other choice for me. I loved the company, the handling, the warranty, the weight, and the table. Even my non-engineer eye can see how well designed it is! As a new single mom, I decided to buy a used Millennium with my divorce settlement and start a business.

Q: How long were you a quilter before you became an APQS dealer?

Angela Huffman quiltI became a dealer as soon as I could. This was a sink or swim moment for me. I needed a way to be the mommy I wanted to be while earning money to keep us afloat. I am not sure that the owners of APQS know how deeply they have impacted my little family. I can be there for my kids when they get home from school, are sick, or need a chaperone. I am so thankful for that opportunity.

Q: Purchasing a longarm quilting machine is a big step. What advice do you have for quilters who are thinking about it?

A: Get the best machine you can from a high-end company that stands behind their product with an exceedingly long warranty. Test drive the ones you are thinking of so you can see which one feels good to you. If money is tight, look at used machines.

Be cautious about getting a lesser brand machine as a “starter” to “see if you like it.” I talk to so many people who have had terrible experiences because they bought a machine thinking it was a bargain but wound up with colossal headaches, a machine that won’t sew and no support from their manufacturer. This is one area in life where you get what you pay for.

Talk to owners and look at resale value. That will tell you a lot.

Q: What are the most common questions you receive from people who are in the market for a longarm?

Angela Huffman quiltPeople want to know if it is easy to use and if they’ll be able to longarm quilt. The best thing about APQS machines is how simple and easy to use they are. I can throw any thread at my machine and it will take it. That way I can focus on growing my skills and developing my quilting techniques.

APQS believes that education is just as important as the sale of the machine. That is why the APQS forums are so popular, the APQS Facebook page has so many members and the APQS YouTube channel enjoys so many subscribers. APQS is a community of quilters that are dedicated to helping each other. If you enjoy the quilting process, I’d bet you’d LOVE longarm quilting!

Q: What’s it like being an APQS dealer and running a quilting business? Can you give us some insight into a “typical” day?

A: There is no typical day, which is probably why I like it so much. I have an Intelliquilter computerized system on my APQS Millennium so I can have it quilting on one customer quilt while I’m working on binding for another customer or just answering emails/calls. I have found that most of my customers turn into friends so I just try to be there for them. I also enjoy teaching both through my online video classes and “live” classes. I know that if you have an APQS machine, you just need the confidence and education to get you going.

Angela Huffman quiltQ: You have 13-year old triplets, and all three of them also quilt. What got them interested in quilting, and how do you help foster this interest?

When my kidlets were small, they were never far from my side. They loved to play with scraps on my design wall and we could talk about shapes. As my homeschooling journey got going, I thought I could use quilting to talk about numbers and math. Instead, I found it was a wonderful way to teach character. Conversations about persistence, perseverance, doing your best, being careful and helping others all came from quilting.

Now my kidlets compete nationally and we have about 35 ribbons to date!

Q: What is the most important thing people should keep in mind as new quilters?

A: Give yourself permission to learn. Give yourself permission to fail. Give yourself permission to grow.